Top NFL draft value picks

Coby Fleener, Rueben Randle should outperform projected landing spots

Originally Published: April 17, 2012
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
Coby Fleener Mark Zerof/US PresswireCoby Fleener could go late in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft. But should he go earlier?

Teams normally have a certain level of expectation when it comes to gauging success in a draft. In general, they want early picks to become long-term starters and/or stars, midround selections to become starters and late-round picks to fill out depth on the roster.

It is considered a success whenever a pick meets expectations, but a team really celebrates whenever a player exceeds those expectations.

Those types of picks are hard to find, but here are five players in the 2012 NFL draft who offer more value than where draft experts are projecting them to be picked.

Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford Cardinal

It seems the recent history of first-round tight end selections might be holding Fleener's draft value down.

According to the all-time tight end draft listing page on pro-football-reference.com, there have been 16 tight ends drafted in the first round since 2000. The list includes such luminaries as Vernon Davis, Dallas Clark and Jeremy Shockey, but it also includes busts such as Anthony Becht, Jerramy Stevens and Daniel Graham. All in all, the group doesn't exactly do a great job of selling the league on the merits of picking a tight end on Day 1 of the draft.

However, Fleener compares favorably with Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, two of the best young tight ends in the game today. Those two were taken in the second and third rounds, respectively, of the 2010 draft, but their insanely high production levels last season (a combined 189 receptions for 2,637 yards and 28 touchdowns) shows that, were that draft to be repeated today, they easily would justify early first-round selections.